World must unite to fight expanding desertification: Mushahidullah Khan

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ISLAMABAD, Sep 12 (APP): Climate Change Minister, Senator
Mushahidullah Khan on Tuesday said that rapidly expanding
desertification is eating into vast tracks of rich fertile land,
pose a greater risk to the global environmental sustainability, food
security and social and economic stability in different countries
including Pakistan.
But afforestation, sustainable animal grazing, rainwater
harvesting programmes and effective monitoring systems can
effectively help fight the desertification, he suggested.
“The desertification is a “silent, invisible crisis” of land
degradation, a global phenomenon, which is one of the humanity’s
most pressing problems that undermines efforts to achieve food
security, secure livelihoods, social stability and health and
economic development goals,” he said on while addressing at a high-
level ministerial segment of the UN-led international Convention on
Desertification being held in in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China said
a press release issued here today.
Mushahidullah Khan said, “Tackling desertification, which is
fast devouring fertile lands and exacerbated by overgrazing,
deforestation and groundwater reserves and surface wateer runoff,
must be recognised now as a critical and essential part of
adaptation to climate change and mitigation of global biodiversity
and food production losses.”
The13th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) of
the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
being held from September 6-17,2017 is an annual event.
Government delegations from around 195 countries have
assembled at the 13th desertification convention to decide on the
global strategic framework that will guide global `desertification
combating action’ under the Convention from 2018-2030.
Climate Change Minister Senator Mushahidullah Khan is currently leading an official delegation at the UN Convention, who highlighted issues of desertification, land degradation and land erosion, which have exacerbated in Pakistan because of global warming-induced climate
change.
Established in 1994, the United Nations to Combat
Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international
agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land
management.
The Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-
arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of
the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.
According to UNCCD reports, Desertification – land degradation
in arid and semi-arid areas – is a pressing global environmental
challenge, currently affecting an estimated 100-200 million people.
One-third of all people on Earth – about 2 billion in number – are
potential victims.
The climate change minister and senator Mushahidullah Khan
urged the government delegations and civil society members from 195
counties at the UN Convention to treat desertification as an
agricultural, social and economic problem instead of sidelining it
as an environmental issue.
Drawing global community’s attention at the desertification
convention, the climate change minister emphasised in his address
that tackling desertification requires the international community
to jointly roll out a viable global policy mechanism to cope growing
desertification, which pose grave risks to the sustainability of
lives and livelihoods of nearly two billion people, who live in arid
and semi-arid areas and rely on land resources for the food and
income.
He told the international delegations that like in many
African and Asia-Pacific countries, desertification has emerged as
a major socio-economic and environmental challenge in Pakistan,
devouring vast tracks of rich fertile lands and risking country’s
food security efforts.
“Pakistan is facing with daunting challenges of combating
desertification, with more than 80 percent of the land classified as
arid and semi-arid and severely affected by desertification, land
degradation and recurring droughts. The drylands of Balochistan,
Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Punjab face increasing land
degradation and desertification,” Mushahidullah Khan told the
participants of the high-level ministerial segment of the UNCCD.
He highlighted that as Pakistan’s population grows and the
effects of climate change take hold, desertification has become a
major source of concern for the country’s fragile ecosystem.
“Pakistan’s agricultural land is vulnerable to desertification
– the process by which arable land becomes desert due to drought,
deforestation, inappropriate agricultural practices, the effects of
climate change, or a combination of all of these,” he added.
He also appraised the participants that as part of global
efforts to combat desertification and drought, second phase of the
five-year ambitious Sustainable Land Management Programme (SLMP) was being implemented in Pakistan’s desertification-hit districts. The
project for 2015-2020 was being supported by the Global Environment
Facility and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Mushahidullah Khan further explained that “SLMP aims to
implement United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and
implement sustainable land management practices over entire
landscapes in arid and semi-arid landscapes.
The initiative is supporting the development of comprehensive land use policies,providing training to individuals and institutions across Pakistan,and helping develop district and village level land use plans to improve practices at the local level”.
During his address, the climate change minister noted that
land degradation as a result of the desertification has been
increasingly contributing to severe drought and loss of food
production, biodiversity could displace millions across the world
including Pakistan
He told the participants that reports of UN’s Food and
Agriculture (FAO) agency have already warned that desertification
could displace 135 million people across the world including
Pakistan by 2030, unless action is taken to restore and rehabilitate
degraded land.
He suggested that encouraging pastoral communities to do
things such as use new techniques to conserve underground water,
manage their livestock more efficiently and protect local
biodiversity can all go a long way to addressing the problems of
desertification and sustainable land management.
Mushahidullah Khan joined with global leaders at the
desertification convention for new desertification monitoring and
assessment systems to mitigate fallouts of the desertification
globally.
He underlined that these very systems are must to help make
tracking land degradation – and progress against it – easier and
more effective.